Nobody Trains For Second Place

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

Photo courtesy of Alberto Marchetti

The best way to lose a Jiu-Jitsu competition (if there is such a thing) is that you gave your best and someone just happened to be better than your best on that day. Here’s a few other ways to lose that are more in your control:

Bow Out: This may not actually be in your control so we’ll start with it. I’m of the opinion that the results of a tournament represent a very specific time and place and configuration of the planets and yours and everybody else’s cells, so you might as well fight your teammates and see who’s better that day. Five minutes later it could have been the other guy. As I once heard a top black belt say, “Nobody trains for second place.” If your instructor tells you this is how it’s going to be, respect them. If it bothers you enough, seek another team.

Give Up: You can teach heart, but you can also lose it. You do truly have to want to win and believe that you can win for the entirety of the tournament. If that belief or desire falters during a match your timing will suffer. Practice telling yourself that you can beat anyone. Musicians are often taught to smile into a mirror until they feel confident before a concert. You can trick yourself into feeling ready by practicing confidence every day. Pay attention to your training quality in weekly or monthly groupings to help you realize that one or two bad nights is not the end of the world.

Get Emotional: Emotions are distractions. Don’t buy into someone else’s mind games if your opponent is antagonizing you. Decisions are best made when calm, and Jiu-Jitsu is no different. Your job is to move with intent and purpose in a steady path towards submitting the person in front of you. Don’t stop to feel sorry for yourself or a bad position will only get worse. Channel the Terminator and see your results be the best they can be.

Get Winded: Even people that are in great shape can falter if they don’t have good breath control. Staying calm is number one, but diaphragmatic breathing practice is a close second. Practice using your full breath capacity while you’re training. Take big, calm inhales to expand your belly and slow, calm exhales as you let it out. Mindfulness in breathing and some practice with Youtube videos will condition your diaphragm more quickly than you might expect. The practice will also calm you and help relieve stress. It’s a win-win-win all around.

Miss Weight: One of my old instructors once told the class that we had the choice to make ourselves suffer or we could just fight at what we walk around at. If you are a serious competitor and absolutely believe cutting is necessary to be in your optimum division, then you should also seriously consider spending money on a diet coach. You need to be able to lose weight, function, and undergo a hardcore training regimen. You’d better be prioritizing sleep and nutrition and talking to people that know what they’re talking about. I’m sorry but just because your coach competes successfully does not mean they have the best diet advice for your body.

Overthink: Very similar to getting emotional, overthinking is a mental way to lose. If you have a bracket of more than 7 people the chances of studying and preparing for them all is slim to none. Looking people up is a quick way to psych yourself out. If it works for you, great. Personally I’ve always preferred to worry about my best game and imposing it on others. Concentrating on others can make you defensive and scared. You are the thing you have the most control over, so focus all of your attention on you.